This is the operator who oversees Train Controller, the layout’s computer software, and sits alongside the Timetable Manager. The Digital Driver is responsible, with the help of the software, for running all trains over McKinley’s two main lines.
Once the Timetable Manager has given the go-ahead for a train to leave a location, the Digital Driver starts the automated departure sequence.
The software is entirely responsible for taking a train from one platform at a terminus all the way to the end of its journey. A trip from London Kings Park station to Manchester Park Street station will take the train through 18 main (track/block) sections, seven junctions and six sets of station throats.
The software is excellent at managing conflicts and unexpected obstructions.
A regional train waits for a Pullman Express to clear the junction
The second role that the Digital Driver performs is to trigger the running of block freight trains around the layout.
McKinley has numerous examples of commodities which have to be moved from one (virtual) location to another such as coal, steel, aggregates, oil or containers. The so-called ‘virtual’ locations may be real places, but are not modelled on the visible sections of the layout.
A "scenic" steel train prepares to depart from Swinton Loops
These trains trundle around the layout at realistic speeds to and from various freight sidings, adding significantly to the sense of realism on the layout. We call these trains ‘scenic trains’.
A "scenic" oil train negotiates the tight curve on the approach to Birmingham
The third - and vital - role that the Digital Driver performs is to monitor the progress of all trains that are under computer control.
Problems such as derailments and stalled engines have to be dealt with very quickly to avoid delays.
Locomotive Castle class "Blenheim" has derailed at the entrance to Swinton Loops
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